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5 Tips to Help Your Child with Motor Planning

Does your child have difficulty learning or doing a new or unfamiliar task? Does he appear clumsy or avoid participating in sports or other physical activities? Does he have trouble coming up with new play ideas or knowing how to play with toys? If this sounds familiar, your child might have difficulty with motor planning.  Motor planning is the ability of the brain to conceive of, organize, and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions.  If your child needs help with motor planning, read on for 5 helpful tips.

5 Ways to Help Your Child with Motor Planning:

  1. Do activities that are composed of a series of steps (i.e. making a craft, making a sandwich, or creating an obstacle course).  As you do this, help your child identify, plan, and execute the steps to promote the ability to sequence and map actions. Break down the steps to make them more manageable and attainable, which can build self-esteem.
  2.  Determine what aspects of motor planning are a strength for your child (e.g. imitation, following verbal directions, timing, sequencing, coming up with ideas).  Play to these strengths when doing activities with your child to compensate for the areas of difficulty.
  3. Engage your child in activities that involve climbing over, under and around large objects.  For example, playing on playground equipment or coming up with obstacle courses will help your child gain basic knowledge of how to move his body through space.
  4. Encourage your child to come up with an idea for a new activity, or a new way to play with a toy or equipment, to promote motor planning. Read more

Navigating the Playground with a 2-Year-Old

Summer is a great time to explore the playground with your child. Playgrounds provide a fun and exciting playground with toddlerenvironment that gets your child outside and active. Children of all ages can enjoy a playground in many different ways.

Read on for specific tips to navigating the playground with a two-year-old:

  • Choose the right time of day to play.  Pick a time of day when peers of a similar age will be at the park. Older kids play differently, and it’s best to have your little one playing with children his own age.
  • Climb the stairs and uneven surfaces. A two-year-old is expected to be able to climb stairs independently and walk over uneven surfaces without losing balance. The park is a great place to practice these skills. If your toddler is a little unsteady on the wobbly bridge, hold their hand to increase confidence.
  • Go down the slide. Depending on your toddler’s confidence and the size of the slide, you can either hold them on the way down, or let them slide down by themselves. Many parks have smaller slides that are good for beginners.
  • Play in the sand. This will help to develop your toddler’s fine motor skills and tactile sensory processing. If you can, try and build a castle or mountain to help develop spatial skills.
  • Ride the spring-animals (the kind you sit on that wobble). This will help improve your child’s balance and strength while having fun!

Parks are a great environment to encourage your kids to get outside and play. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, playgrounds help to foster social skills, build friendships, and support a healthy lifestyle.

Monkey Bar Mania

It is time. Lunch is over and the weather is finally allowing our children to break free of their heavy winter coats and boots to enjoy the warm, fresh, and invigorating air on the playground. Antsy children struggle to contain their excitement as they take their final steps to the great outdoors- slides,Little girl climbing on monkey bars teeter-totters, swings, and kickball fields galore. Only the bravest of the brave dare take on the tall metal intimidators commonly known as the monkey bars.

Monkey bar climbing has been right of passage for children all across the playground. Conquering their cold frames take time, practice, and determination. Here are the developmental steps to achieving the ultimate goal: swinging from one end to the other without touching the ground as our ape-like friends seem to do so effortlessly.

  1. First, ask your child to reach for the monkey bars and let their feet dangle. Cheer them on and encourage them to hang on as long as they can. This will help them to strengthen the muscles in their hands and upper body.
  2. Next, encourage them to swing their legs back and forward while maintaining their tight hold on the bar. This swinging will in turn, give your child the burst of momentum they’ll need to eventually move across the bars.
  3. Next, help them coordinate the swing of their legs with the movement of an arm to reach for the next bar. Keep in mind that your child may need you to support them at their waist in order to complete the first few swings. It may also be a good idea to encourage them to first reach with their dominant hand as they may have an increased rate of success at grabbing the bar.
  4. After successfully completing one swing, talk your child through bringing their other arm to same bar that the first is holding. Once your child can successfully cross the monkey bars one at a time, they may then practice alternating hands on sequential bars. Once they’ve mastered the monkey bars, they can move on to eventually skipping one or two bars at time!

For other playground tips and tricks, see Amanda Matthews’ blog suggesting tips to work on motor skills at the park.

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Ways to Improve Core Strength at the Playground

As the weather is becoming nicer, you are most likely spending more time outside and at your neighborhood parks. If your child is working on improving their core strength in their therapy sessions and at home, this can also be carried over while playing on a playground.Child swinging in the playground

The following activities can be completed to improve your child’s core strength:

  • Climbing ladders
  • Completing monkey bars
  • Pumping themselves on the swing or pushing another friend or sibling on the swing
  • Going down the slide in a “V” position
  • Jumping off surfaces of varying heights with two feet together
  • Create an obstacle course throughout the playground
  • Crawling through tunnels, under things , and over things
  • Running on different surfaces (sand, wood chips, grass, sidewalks, uneven bridges)

Hopefully these activities will add some variety into the home exercise program your child is currently doing.

Happy Exercising!

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10 Ways to Encourage Gross Motor Skills at the Playground | Grammar School

1. Play with your child, instead of being an on looker, be an example of what certain movements

look like.

2. Praise small accomplishments, they may not be doing the monkey bars by themselves just yet, but hanging from the bar for 5 seconds and then 10 seconds, is a place to start.kids on playground

3. Play catch, although it may seem like a simple activity, children benefit greatly from planning their movements, tracking the ball with their eyes, and the repetition the activity provides. Switch up the difficulty level if they are ready for the challenge by changing the size, weight or texture of the ball or distance between you and your child.

4. Challenge your child to an obstacle course race with the entire family.

5. Start with an activity your child is comfortable with, and encourage to expand from there. If your child enters the playground being asked to do something they are not comfortable with, they may shut down before getting anywhere.

6. Schedule play dates at the park with same age peers to encourage age appropriate skills in this setting.

7. Add “park time” into your families weekend routine. Frequent trips to a familiar park will help familiarize your child with the equipment and build endurance for gross motor activities.

8. Play “hot lava” encourage your child to navigate the park equipment without touching the ground.

9. Visit your child’s school playground on the weekend to help them practice what they are having difficulty with at recess.

10. Participate in animal walks (including bear walks, crab walks, frog jumps, etc.) to encourage strengthening, endurance and coordination.

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Gross Motor Skills on the Playground

Through play, children explore and learn about the world. While doing so, they also learn the gross motor skills that they need in order to successfully navigate their surroundings. Children also learn about sensory information, which allows them to react appropriately to the environment. Gross Motor Skills Blog

Children take in sensory information by touching different textures, experiencing different smells, and hearing different noises in their environments. A great place for children to practice and develop gross motor skills without even knowing it is on the playground!

Great sensory and motor activities for your children on the playground include:

Slides

Slides help in the development of the vestibular system, as the body is in motion and the head can be placed in different positions. It is also a great motor activity, as it requires the child to climb the stairs of the slide, balance on one foot and shift his weight during stair climbing.

Climbing Wall

Climbing a rock wall is great practice for coordination of the upper and lower extremities, as the child has to figure out where to place his hands and feet, and in what sequence. The wall also helps the child develop his upper body and finger strength. Some playgrounds have moveable structures to climb (for example, made out of rope or chain link), which require even greater coordination skills and balance, as the body is required to shift its weight accordingly as the structure moves. Both of these activities also provide proprioceptive input to the joints and muscles.

Tubes

Children can crawl through tubes on all fours, in a bear crawl or in the crab walk position. This helps a child develop core strength and body coordination skills.

Swings

Swings are a great source of vestibular input, as the body is in motion while the feet are off of the ground. Pumping your feet also helps to develop sequencing and motor coordination skills.

Monkey Bars

Monkey bars help to develop upper extremity and hand strength, as well as coordination. If the child hangs upside down on the monkey bars, it also provides great vestibular input!

See-Saw

The see-saw requires coordination, sequencing and cooperation of two children at the same time in order to make the see-saw move. Balance and core and upper body strength are required to hold oneself up on the see saw.

Spring Rider

A spring rider is a seat on a spring that rocks back and forth. It provides great proprioceptive input into the body’s joints, as well as vestibular input while the body is in motion and the head is placed into different positions. A child also needs to coordinate his body movements in order to make the spring rider move, and core and upper extremity strength is required to hold on to the rider.

The playground is the perfect place for children to develop their gross motor skills – skills they will need for everyday activities. These skills can help prepare them for school, as they will need the core strength to develop proper posture for table top activities, and coordination skills for writing and cutting. Gross motor skills will also prepare children for sports and cooperative play with their peers. Movement activities can help to regulate the nervous system, so that a child can be better able to pay attention during class or when doing his homework. Most importantly, movement activities encourage a healthy lifestyle and help children build confidence, as they are able to participate in a variety of activities with peers and become more self-sufficient in their daily tasks.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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